There is a wealth of information that you can read during pregnancy. From week by week developmental updates about both you and baby to tips about creating the right space in your home. However, there are still a few things that I learnt after labour that I thought would be worth sharing in case it’s of any help to current parents to be.
The exhaustion can be crippling but you have to focus on the first feed
Our active labour wasn’t particularly long in the scheme of things but I was induced so our journey to labour began just under 24 hours before I was taken to the delivery suite and it involved a night in hospital so I didn’t get a great deal of sleep.
Once in the delivery suite, things progressed reasonably quickly but due to Mini’s head position he was moving slowly and we required further medical support. Unfortunately I hadn’t been able to keep anything in my stomach after receiving diamorphine and this continued after labour so I was very much running on empty.
Nevertheless, once we were back in the delivery ward after a trip to theatre, there were repeated attempts to try to get him to latch as I had informed the midwives that I intended to breastfeed. After deciding he really wasn’t up to it, I was shown how to express into a syringe to ensure he received some initial feeds and was encouraged to keep trying skin to skin contact to trigger his ability to latch.
The water retention from your stomach has to go somewhere
Whilst I was pregnant I was intrigued as to how much of my bump would be Mini and how much would be everything else. Some people had commented that it was rather large at some stages yet I didn’t think it was as big as it could have been.
I think to some degree I was hoping there would be a fair bit of water retention as that would be easier to lose and would mean that he wouldn’t be too huge to cause me any damage. What I never expected was that the water retention would drop into my legs and feet after birth and take a good few days to go.
I imagine that the water stayed in my lower body for such a long time because we had an extended stay in hospital and there’s only so far you can walk within the confines of the post natal ward and when you’ve got a catheter for the first couple of days. I was horrified when I could barely put my trainers on to come home but thankfully my feet were reasonably back to normal after being home for a couple of days.
You don’t truly realise the repercussions of decisions during labour until afterwards
I didn’t accept pain relief above paracetamol during labour until I was already a few centimetres dilated. I lasted a fair while on gas and air before moving onto diamorphine which distracted me for a reasonable amount of time as it made me violently sick.
As the induction drip continued to escalate the stages of labour I asked for an epidural. However, by the time we had seen an anaesthetist I was told I was fully dilated and we might as well get on with things. Nevertheless, two hours later, after struggling to turn Mini’s head and get him out naturally, I was in theatre with an epidural being administered.
What I didn’t realise at the time of signing my permission for a forceps delivery (and if necessary, an emergency c-section) were the repercussions and recovery needed afterwards. I had no idea how dazed I’d be, that I’d wake up with a catheter, and how ‘traumatic’ births can affect the baby.
I think I was so keen not to make myself too anxious about the birth that I avoided reading about births that required further assistance and wasn’t quite as knowledgeable as I could have been.
You experience a strange loneliness when your partner has to leave
Following recovery in the delivery ward, I wasn’t moved up to the post natal ward until around 3am. Chris had been with me from approx 8am the previous morning and it was really weird to be on my own, in a strange ward bay with Mini in his cot beside me but no Chris.
We had hoped that due to the time and the nature of his arrival (with the added complications of him not feeding and my limited abilities to move and keep food down) that Chris might have been able to stay but unfortunately this wasn’t the case.
Thankfully I managed to get some short bursts of sleep, between attempts to feed and skin to skin contact, and Chris was back a few hours later.
As much as it’s the female that undertakes the act of labour, for us, Chris was very much involved – because we had a delivery in theatre he was the first to hold him, he put his first nappy on and dressed him in the delivery ward whilst I was being cleaned up, and he was able to find what I needed from my hospital bag. To be alone with a lot less support, even though it wasn’t needed quite as much that first night, was very bizarre and I felt a bit like a rabbit in the headlights.
The responsibility of looking after another life sets in
In preparation for Mini’s arrival we’d had his nursery ready months before his due date, we’d bought plenty of clothes in a range of sizes (even 9 months+) and my parents had bought half the nappy aisle of Morrisons – we had all the practical things you need to get by.
Preparing psychologically and the reality is a different matter though. There’s no checklist for emotions and strength and as I had tried not to think too much about the labour itself, keen to follow the midwives advice in the situation rather than work myself up beforehand, I hadn’t dwelt much on the thought of life after labour.
My emotions in hospital were very much up and down, in part due to my decision to breastfeed (I’ll talk about this in more detail in another post) and I don’t think the responsibility of Mini’s care really sunk in until the day following his birth.
Waking up after my first attempt of sleep and instinctively checking on him, preparing him for skin to skin and to have another attempt at getting him to latch. It was also the first day where I’d be the one to change his nappy, dress him and the other tasks that would become second nature throughout the day.
Did you find that there were things you learnt after labour that you didn’t read about beforehand? Let me know in the comments if so.